Members of the Prairie Island Indian Community now have access to the fasted Internet service available with the completion of a new Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network constructed by Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) of Winona, MN.
According to HBC President Dan Pecarina, every residence now has access to symmetrical Gigabit (1,000 megabits) broadband. He said that having access to that level of high-speed broadband will be life-changing for the community members.
“Having access to symmetrical Gigabit Internet will enhance the lives of the residents of the Prairie Island community exponentially by allowing an array of advantages. These super-fast speeds will have a dramatic impact on everything from economic development and education, to the delivery of healthcare, and other community services.”
The struggle for broadband connectivity is real for rural America, but even more so in rural Indian communities. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about 8 percent of Americans, an estimated 24 million people, still have no access to in-home high-speed internet service. That percentage is even higher for rural Indian communities. According to an FCC report, roughly 35 percent of Americans living in tribal lands lack access to any broadband services.
The burden of bringing high-speed broadband to rural areas has fallen on smaller providers, like HBC. Large broadband companies prefer densely populated areas where their return on investment is greater. The HBC high-speed broadband network provides Internet, Video, and Phone services to over 30 rural communities in Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.
But bringing the high-speed network to the tribal community required communication, coordination, special permitting, and a little patience.
“HBC has been working with tribal leaders for the past few years to build a network to serve the community,” Pecarina explained. “The process to build on tribal land was fairly lengthy and, at times, frustrating. While there were significant delays due to the federal government approval process, once the project received the necessary approvals, things came together rather quickly.”
Construction on the Prairie Island FTTH network began in June with the first community member homes being connected to the network in September.
This is the third fiber-optic network project that HBC has brought to the Prairie Island. In 2017, HBC worked with Dakota County and Dakota Electric Association to build a fiber optic connection to the Prairie Island area for County and Electric Association purposes. HBC turned their portion of the fiber build into fiber to the home service along the route and to install High Density WiFi Technology at the Treasure Island Resort, Pow Wow grounds, and the Casino’s outdoor amphitheater. HBC also offers Video service to Treasure Island Resort properties along with a variety of additional data services.
“This is a prime example of what public, private, and co-operative entities can accomplish when they work together.” Pecarina stated. “The Prairie Island Tribal Council’s broadband vision and the cooperative work with HBC to build this network for its community, is proof that fiber based broadband services can reach even some of the most remote areas.”